Outer space regime evolution: the sustainable governance of low earth orbit for future generations

Napier, Jennifer Lauren (2023) Outer space regime evolution: the sustainable governance of low earth orbit for future generations. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

[img] Text (Doctoral thesis)
napier.jennifer.lauren_phd (18029411).pdf - Submitted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only until 28 March 2024.

Download (1MB) | Request a copy


With the increasing number of actors, space objects, and debris utilizing Low Earth Orbit (LEO), it is time to reconsider what this increase in activity means for the future of the Outer Space Regime and the Low Earth Orbit governance framework with consideration for safety, security, and sustainability of the activities on-orbit and the orbital environment itself. The Outer Space Regime is the legal and political regime that governs human activity in space. The LEO governance framework sits within the regime and is the political and legal framework for activities in LEO and for the LEO environment. The beginnings of the Outer Space Regime included the creation and adoption of outer space treaties. However, since the mid-1980s there has been a legal shift towards non-binding international law. Therefore, this research will consider how the Outer Space Regime is evolving by examining the influence of politics and law as well as other socio-legal factors and ambient developments in technology. Understanding how the Outer Space Regime is evolving is crucial to understanding the LEO governance framework. This research sets out four research questions which will guide in addressing the main argument which is if the Outer Space Regime is evolving, what does that mean for the sustainable governance of Low Earth Orbit now and for future generations. To answer the research questions, this research will use a qualitative, dual international law – international relations methodological approach.

The research will first look at the Outer Space Regime and how it is evolving using international relations academics under the theme of regime theory. This will aid to inform on how the LEO governance framework is part of the regime and how the holistic evolution creates a need for an updated framework for LEO. This research will also critically evaluate the current international binding and non-binding law applicable to the regime and the LEO governance framework. It is through this dual approach of examining international relations and international law considerations that the research questions can be answered and form the basis for original contribution to knowledge in the field. As governance is applied by State and non-State actors, where a national perspective is needed, the UK will provide as the central State case study. Another original contribution to the research is pairing this international law and international relations academic analysis with practical approaches from State and non-State actors. This academic and practical approach will be applied to another original contribution of analyzing 21 governance theories to consider which of these might be best suited to the evolving regime and the need for an updated LEO governance framework. At the end of the research when the preferred governance framework is put forth, recommendations will be given on how to evolve the governance framework for Low Earth Orbit and how this recommendation has been found based on the challenges in LEO as well as the overarching evolutionary developments of the regime itself. As will be seen, the risk governance model will be argued as the preferred model for the LEO governance framework paired with tools such as Space Situational Awareness and Space Traffic Management as well as legal and political elements from the broader Outer Space Regime. Risk governance includes a clear process for managing varying degrees of risk and is understood by decision-makers and operators. Risk governance is not only a governance theory but is also supported by operational standards on risk management. A risk governance model can be applied top-down and bottom-up and at various levels such as internationally or nationally.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: satellite regulation, space traffic management, space law, space sustainability, international relations
Subjects: M100 Law by area
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Northumbria Law School
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2023 09:33
Last Modified: 20 Nov 2023 10:30
URI: https://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/51654

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics